A monumental attempt to pierce the facade of lies, deceit, evasions, and half-truths erected by Hitler's favorite architect and minister of armaments and war production in the Third Reich. Sereny (The Invisible Children, 1985, etc.) here continues a project that began with Into That Darkness, her work on Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka, trying to explain the capacity of men to commit horrendous crimes. Speer, who died in 1981, evolves as a much more human and complex character than the stereotypical Nazi, although he is no less a grotesque and in some ways even more frightening. At the heart of the work are years of personal interviews with her subject, who was released from prison in 1966; the interviews are compelling not just in what they reveal about Speer, but in how Sereny responds to him. Behind ""those dark intelligent eyes,"" she felt, lay ""a real literary talent""; yet it was a first-rate mind that masked the absence of a soul. Speer claimed to have no knowledge of the mass exterminations taking place in Eastern Europe, insisting to the end that he found out about the camps only at his trial in Nuremburg. Yet here was a master of detail and a genius of organization; how could the immense effort to exterminate the Jews have possibly escaped his attention? Sereny, to her credit, does not impose her judgment until the end, where she argues that Speer was living a ""Great Lie""; morally blind to the evil of the Nazis, unable to comprehend or acknowledge his love of the Fuehrer (a love that was not without its erotic aspect), and fully aware of the murder of the Jews, Speer somehow managed to convince himself that he knew nothing. More than a biography or an attempt to prove guilt, this is a struggle to understand how evil seduced a modern Faust.